Thursday, September 27, 2007

More than you bargained for

Sometimes a little overseas purchase can lead to big trouble. Sallie Brady explains the complicated international laws that govern what you can and cannot buy abroad

When retired surgeon and archaeology buff Dr. Joel Teplinsky bought $2,000 worth of bronze figurines, stone oil lamps, and coins from a shop in Lebanon, he had no idea his purchase would land him and his adult daughter, Aimee, in jail. But a few days later, when the two entered Egypt on their trip through the Middle East, they were charged with smuggling antiquities and were put behind bars. They were released a day later, only after they had pled their innocence before a special prosecutor.

Although Teplinsky had no idea he might be breaking the law, Egyptian authorities charged him with defying a UNESCO Convention that prohibits the ownership and transport of cultural property. With no export permits or proof of provenance for the objects, Teplinsky could not prove that he wasn't violating the treaty. Even if Teplinsky had made it home to Los Angeles with his treasures, there's a good chance his booty would have been confiscated by U.S. customs officers at LAX, since the United States, like Egypt, is a keen enforcer of that UNESCO Convention.

See the above page for the full story.

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